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Did Fort Worth Really Have the World’s First Indoor Rodeo?

Kansas stakes a claim to the "World's Original Indoor Rodeo" title, a crown Fort Worth has worn since 1918. 

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AP Photo/Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Paul Moseley

As the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo heads into its final week, a challenge has been issued to its status as “The World’s Original Indoor Rodeo.” Wichita, Kansas, is now claiming that it hosted the first indoor rodeo in 1918, seven weeks before Fort Worth’s, reports Aman Batheja of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

More than just a bit of trivia, Batheja notes that “the launch of indoor rodeos was an important milestone in the evolution of the sport and presaged a 1922 rodeo at New York’s Madison Square Garden that drew national attention.”

Fort Worth’s Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show (which had previously taken place outdoors) was March 11-16, 1918, in the North Side Coliseum. The Stock Show and Rodeo actually trademarked the phrase “The World’s Original Indoor Rodeo,” last year and has been recognized as such by the Texas Legislature. 

But according to Beccy Tanner of the Wichita Eagle, that same year, Wichita held its Mid-Winter Championship Frontier Days Contest—a multiday competition that included steer wrestling and roping—from January 23-26.

The key factor is competition (as opposed to just a Wild West Show), but the Wichita event apparently did not use the word “rodeo.” So it may be just a matter of semantics.

Tanner’s piece starts off with several other shots at Texan claims to Western greatness, noting that the original version of “Streets of Laredo” was written by a Kansan about Dodge City; the song “Abilene” is in fact about Abilene, Kansas, not Abilene, Texas; and John Stetson was in Kansas territory when he came up with the idea for a new kind of hat. 

Asks Tanner, “How significant would it be for Kansas to claim the world’s first indoor rodeo?”

“How significant is the world’s largest ball of twine?” replied Marci Penner of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. (To be clear, she thinks that is significant, pointing out these types of claims bring the state “publicity and . . . another plug.”)

Of course, similar disputes exist over which rodeo is the country’s first. We’re still inclined to go with Pecos, home of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame and one of the stops on our TX175 road trip

And have we mentioned Texas invented the hamburger? “We claim everything,” Mike Campbell of the Texas State Historical Association said in Tanner’s story. 

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